MLB

McCourt ready to challenge his law firm

NewsCore The Wall Street Journal
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In October, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt agreed to pay $130 million to his ex-wife, Jamie, to settle a nasty and well-publicized divorce.

David Stern

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Now, he is gearing up efforts to recover those costs from a law firm he claims helped draft a faulty marital-property agreement between him and his wife more than seven years ago.

Since the issue surfaced last year during the heat of the divorce battle, law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

McCourt and his lawyers have said in court papers this year that his claims against Bingham could be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars."

At the heart of conflict is whether McCourt suffered any harm as a result of what he alleges was a mistake on Bingham's part, and if so, how much.

Back in 2004, a veteran Bingham trusts-and-estates partner named Lawrence Silverstein prepared a marital-property agreement for the McCourts that distinguished the couple's business assets, including the then-newly acquired Dodgers baseball team, from their personal assets, in order to protect the latter from possible business creditors.

Last year, while preparing for the McCourts' divorce trial, questions surrounding the agreement came up. Evidence surfaced that there were discrepancies among the original six signed copies, namely that attachments to three named McCourt as the sole owner of the Dodgers while attachments to the three others did not.

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Evidence also revealed that the copies with attachments that did not name McCourt as the sole owner had been replaced by attachments that did shortly after all six copies had been signed.

At trial last fall, Silverstein testified that he did not remember switching the attachments, but he conceded that he was likely the one who switched them. He also said he did not tell the McCourts about the switch, likely because he felt he had the implied consent from the McCourts to make a simple drafting change he felt squared with their original wishes. Silverstein, described by several Boston lawyers as a highly regarded attorney, declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal. He remains employed by Bingham.

At trial, Jamie McCourt testified that she was never told that by signing the agreement she would be giving up any rights to the Dodgers. Her attorneys, led by well-known litigator David Boies, argued that, in any event, the agreement should be invalidated because the various copies did not collectively show a meeting of the minds. Last December, Los Angeles Judge Scott Gordon agreed with Jamie McCourt's arguments, and scotched the property agreement.

Frank McCourt has not filed suit over the matter, and there are currently no discussions to resolve the issue. But people familiar with the matter say a court battle appears to be the most probable outcome.

Tagged: Dodgers

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